[A2k] FT: Google terminates Apple patent suit
thiru at keionline.org
Wed Oct 3 05:06:08 PDT 2012
October 2, 2012 11:52 pm
Google terminates Apple patent suit
By Tim Bradshaw in San Francisco
Google has unexpectedly dropped the first patent lawsuit it launched against Apple after the search giant’s $12bn acquisition of Motorola Mobility in May.
In August, Google’s Motorola Mobility unit filed a complaint with the International Trade Commission, a US body, claiming that many of Apple’s iPhones, iPads and Mac computers infringed seven of its patents for technologies such as messaging, voice commands and multimedia.
Two weeks ago, the ITC voted to investigate Motorola’s claims against Apple. However, in a filing to the ITC on Monday, Google said it wished to “terminate all claims” in the case, which was expected to take at least another year to resolve.
Google provided no explanation for its withdrawal, saying only: “As we have said many times before, we will continue to vigorously defend our partners.” Apple, which did not oppose Google’s motion, declined to comment.
The ITC compliant was filed immediately before a jury began to consider Apple’s suit against Samsung over smartphone patents in San Jose, California. Samsung, whose devices use Google’s Android operating system, lost on almost every count in that case, with the jury awarding more than $1bn in damages.
Motorola had previously filed another case against Apple, which remains active, before its purchase by Google. The search company’s acquisition of the venerable mobile-phone manufacturer was largely motivated by the desire to bolster patent protection for Android and its partners. Steve Jobs, Apple’s late co-founder, told his biographer that he wanted to “destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product”.
Despite reports that Apple and Google executives have met to discuss a potential settlement to the many patent cases involving the two companies around the world, Google’s dismissal “without prejudice” gave little indication that peace had broken out between the rival smartphone leaders and indeed means the complaint could be revived later.
“There are no agreements between Motorola and Apple, written or oral, express or implied, concerning the subject matter of this investigation,” the filing said.
Florian Muller, a patent expert who consulted for Oracle in a separate patent case against Google, said Motorola had failed to provide supporting documentation required to make its case against Apple. The investigation had also been recently reassigned to a new judge who “doesn’t make things easy for complainants”, Mr Muller wrote in a blogpost.
“This could still be a unilateral goodwill gesture on Google’s part toward Apple if high-level settlement talks are progressing well,” Mr Muller said. “But it could also be a tactical decision involving a plan to reassert the same claims in a federal court. For now I think it’s more likely than not that Google identified some reasons for which this complaint was unlikely to succeed at the ITC and that its overall fight with Apple is continuing as usual . . . For now it remains a mystery what has led Google to withdraw an entire ITC complaint.”
Google’s partial withdrawal comes as Samsung stepped up its patent battle with Apple in the US. On Monday the South Korean company added the new iPhone 5 to a list of devices it accuses of infringing its patents.
The intellectual-property warfare rampant in the technology industry has raised questions about the efficacy of the US patent system. This week Judge Richard Posner, who in June dismissed a case in Chicago between Apple and Google, called for “major reforms” to what he called the “excessive” protection provided by software patents.
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